Although it is still early days in Mario Balotelli’s Liverpool career, he is starting to flop. We all hope that he doesn’t and that he eventually manages to recapture the form that guided Italy to the final of Euro 2012, but right now that seems a million miles away.
At £16 million he is going to be a pretty costly mistake, but he will be in good company. Below are some of the costly mistakes made by Premier League clubs.
Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea £50 million (January 2011)
Until Angel Di Maria arrived at Old Trafford this summer the £50 million paid for Fernando Torres was the record transfer fee. The Torres that donned the red shirt of Liverpool was one of the most lethal strikers in Europe; his Premier League record read 65 goals in 102 appearances. Sadly for both he and Chelsea, his goals dried up the second he moved to Stamford Bridge and it took him 903 minutes to score his first goal for the club.
Overall, in the Premier League he made 110 appearances for the Blues, scoring just 20 goals. His unbelievable miss at Old Trafford pretty much summed up his Chelsea career. The Spaniard’s torrid time in London came to an end this summer; he was loaned to AC Milan for two years until his contract at Stamford Bridge runs out. His replacement, Diego Costa, has already scored nine goals in the league this season – that’s one more than Torres’ record league haul for the Blues and it has taken him 29 games fewer – and is one of the major favourites with Betfair to finish the season as the Premier League’s top goalscorer.
Andy Carroll – Newcaste to Liverpool £35 million (January 2011)
Liverpool used the money from the Torres sale to buy two new players: Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. The cheaper of the two, Suarez, went on to be a legend at the club, Carroll by contrast was a blemish. After scoring 11 goals in 19 league games for Newcastle he was signed by Liverpool as a deadline day replacement for Torres. After an injury-blighted first season with the club, the stage was set for Carroll to evoke memories of famous Liverpool No. 9’s of old. Those memories remain memories. In his 35 league games in the 2011-12 season, he managed just four goals.
Nonetheless, Carroll did have some highlights in that season: his header in the semi-final booked Liverpool an appearance at the FA Cup final, while his cameo performance there nearly took the game to extra-time; Liverpool were losing 2-0 when he came on and scored before arguably equalising with a header. That was as good as it got for Andy. Brendan Rodgers soon arrived at Liverpool and deemed him surplus to requirements. He was eventually sold to West Ham for £17 million.
Massimo Taibi – Venezia to Manchester United £4.5 million (Summer 1999)
Back then £4.5 million was big bucks for a goalkeeper and expectations were high for Massimo Taibi, who had been signed to replace the retiring Peter Schmeichel. Four games later and 10 goals conceded, and Taibi was all but washed away. To this day he is infamous for a particular goalkeeping clanger – when he allowed Matt Le Tissier’s tame effort to squirm through his legs and allow Southampton a 3-3 draw. Taibi cost United over £1 million a game – proving to be a costly addition to the squad.
Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea £30.8 million (May 2006)
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich made no secret of his desire to bring Andriy Shevchenko to Stamford Bridge. Some English tabloids wrote that he had offered AC Milan €75.2 million and Hernan Crespo to Milan in exchange for Shevchenko in 2005. Once the deal was concluded in 2006 Chelsea fans were rightly excited. Here was a player who had scored 127 league goals in 208 appearances, and had a Champions League medal. With him and Didier Drogba up front they would finally have a side capable of winning Europe’s premier tournament. There was one problem though, Shevchenko turned out to be less than impressive – to say the least. His first season saw him play 30 games and score four goals and the season after he managed five in 17. Whilst he was brought in amid media frenzy, he was quietly ushered out the back door after two seasons at the club.
Juan Sebastian Veron – Lazio to Manchester United £28.1 million (July 2001)
The Argentine midfielder was another who was a record British transfer; Shevchenko was the man to break his record. When Sir Alex Ferguson decided to opt for a more continental feel to his midfield he looked at Lazio’s Juan Sebastian Veron, who had become one of the stand-out players in Serie A over the past seasons. Veron came over to the Premier League but could not adapt to the pace of the game. He was used to a lot more space and time on the ball, something that you do not get in here in England, and as such he was easy pickings for just about any opposing central midfielder. Honestly, you would have taken Jason McAteer over him. What is all the more perplexing about Veron is that he was signed for £15 million by Chelsea two years later – a move that still mystifies people today. In total, English clubs spent over £43 million on a player who made 58 appearances in a league he could not keep up in.
Francis Jeffers – Everton to Arsenal £8 million (June 2001)
Perhaps the disaster that was Francis Jeffers was the reason why Arsene Wenger stopped opening his chequebook and looked to Europe rather than the British Isles. If it is, then he is certainly justified. Jeffers was known as a “fox in the box” after netting 18 league goals in 49 appearances for Everton – all before the age of 21. On paper, Jeffers looked like he was set for a stellar career for both club and country – he is the England U21’s record scorer with 13 goals in 16 appearances. His time at Arsenal was dogged by injury, while the form of a certain Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord saw him call the dugout his home. He ended his time with Gunners with four goals in 22 league games. That said, he does have two FA Cup winners medals in his trophy cabinet at home. Jeffers was last seen playing for Accrington Stanley.
Winston Bogarde – Barcelona to Chelsea Free Transfer (Summer 2000)
They have never learnt have they? At least this time Chelsea did not shell out any money on the player, but what they did do is give him a gargantuan £70,000 a week contract, making him one of the best paid footballers in England. What makes Bogarde such a costly mistake is his refusal to leave the club. After playing on Boxing Day in 2000, he made just one more appearance, his seventh of his tenure, before leaving in 2004. Chelsea tried and failed to offload the centre-back, he was demoted to the reserves and the youth team but even that could force him to leave West London. Bogarde openly spoke about how he was only there for the money and that why should he have to leave when he is getting paid so well to do nothing. In fact he openly admitted that he may be one of the worst buys in Premier League history.
So there you go Mario, if your Liverpool career continues in this vein at least you will be in good company.